BY JEREMY HOECK
There are certain times when you ask a coach a question and they perk up, and you know you’ve hit gold.
Taylor Lambert was just one of those topics during my chat with University of South Dakota football coach Joe Glenn after Wednesday’s practice at the DakotaDome.
“He’s kind of a folk hero,” Glenn said, smiling.
Given the way Glenn raved about Lambert, a sophomore fullback from North Sioux City, after last Saturday’s win over Missouri State and then again Wednesday, it’s clear Lambert is a team favorite.
“He just wants to play this game so bad, so everyone’s happy when he gets a chance to get on the field and make a play,” Glenn said.
Lambert got exactly that opportunity in the win over Missouri State.
The Dakota Valley High School graduate, who came to USD as a walk-on, caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter from backup quarterback Brian Woodward– Lambert’s first collegiate touchdown.
For a touchdown that came in the final six minutes of a blowout (the Coyotes won handily, 40-10), it certainly sparked plenty of excitement from the rest of the USD players.
Lambert himself, though, was rather subdued about the whole thing. That’s just his nature, Glenn says.
“He walks softly but carries a big stick,” Glenn said. “He’ll let you have it, though, and he’s a heckuva blocker. And then we found out Saturday that he’s a pretty good pass catcher out of the backfield.”
The Press & Dakotan caught up with Lambert after Wednesday’s practice to talk about that first touchdown, his transition to fullback and the questions surrounding his nickname.
What was last week not only getting in the game but scoring a touchdown?
It was great. Usually I get in there in the end of the games for a couple of minutes. Fortunately we scored enough points, so I had the opportunity. I heard the play and I was excited, because it’s made for the fullback. We already one kid score on the exact same play, Drew Potter, I was just trying to get as open as I could. And it all worked out.
I bet that was pretty nerve-wracking, hearing that the play was coming for you?
Oh yeah, definitely. The first thing that goes through your head is, ‘Run as fast as you can and don’t drop it.’
It seemed like the rest of the guys were pretty excited. Did you see some of that excitement on the sidelines?
It took me a couple minutes to get off the field, so many people were giving me high-fives and wanted to chest bump me. That just goes back to, we’re all excited for each other when we score. There’s a lot of support for everyone on this team.
Coming to USD as a linebacker and now at fullback, was it a matter of finding a place where you could play?
I played linebacker the first year here, and the second year, but really, I played scout (team) d-line. I did pretty well there; I got Scout Player of the Year. So they decided that, ‘Maybe his strong suit in college might be blocking and more close quarter contact kind of stuff.’ They decided to try me there, and it stuck.
And it’s worked out pretty well so far, hasn’t it?
It’s been great. The senior graduated, so then there was only one (Potter), and we needed another one.
OK, so what’s the story with your nickname? Joe Glenn said at the press conference on Saturday that your nickname is ‘Rocket.’ Where did that come from?
I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if the interviewee misheard him or what, but I do have a few nicknames here but ‘Rocket’ isn’t one of them (laughs).
You probably get called that now though, right?
Yeah, now people call me ‘Rocket’ just trying to be funny and stuff. I have other ones, but that’s definitely not one of them.
What are some of your nicknames?
When I first got here, ‘Lambchop’ stuck for a long time. So now people alternate between ‘Lambchop’ – because my name is Lambert – and ‘Brick.’ I guess I have a square body, so that’s where that one came from.
‘Brick’ probably suits you with your wrestling background, I imagine, right? Is there still some of that old wrestling fire and attitude in you?
Choosing between football and wrestling was actually hard. I’ve been playing football since third grade, but I only wrestled for two years. But yeah, using your leverage, especially as a fullback, knowing where helmet placement is for leverage helps a lot. That really helped me learn how to work hard. High school football practices were difficult, but they were nothing like wrestling practices.
How about the opportunity on Saturday at Northern Iowa? It’s another traditional top-25 team that always seems to be in the conference title picture.
That’s going to be a huge game for us. We’ve just been riding the momentum after the NDSU game. Something clicked in the team. You go to practice and something’s changed. And I think a lot of it has been our scout team, they’ve been going hard and really giving us a good look every day. I hope that shows up again at the UNI game.
There’s probably a lot more confidence after the NDSU win and then with the performance last week?
That NDSU game was crazy. But it’s still one game at a time. We’ve got UNI coming up; we’ve got to get that one.
Growing up in North Sioux City, you were probably pretty familiar with Northern Iowa growing up, weren’t you?
I knew a few kids that went there from schools like Heelen and other Sioux City schools. They recruited a lot of kids out of Iowa, and I knew of a couple of those kids who went there.